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Siete qui: Home Festival Festival 2009 The charm of a masterpiece, summa of harmonic mastery and of polyphonic scientia
The charm of a masterpiece, summa of harmonic mastery and of polyphonic scientia PDF Print E-mail

di Attilio Piovano

Supreme experimenter, Bach dedicated himself in particular to the harpsichord and organ, still stringed instruments were certainly not extraneous to his production. He knew the violin’s most profound potentialities: indeed one of the first jobs of the future Kantor had been, in 1703, a position as violinist in Weimar. He had obtained, afterwards, a chance to deepen his knowledge during his activity in the Calvinist court of Köthen (1717-23); here sacred music was prohibited so in this period Bach wrote most of his scores for violin. Among these compositions, the Six Sonatas and Partitas for unaccompanied violin (BWV 1001-1006) certainly deserve emphasis.

Extraordinary masterpieces, among the literature for violin of all times, Bach’s skill in polyphonic writing reaches incomparable climaxes, revealing, same as in the contemporary at Suites for cello, an incredible mastery. The manuscript was ready in 1720; still this is just the date in which the different scores of the collection, probably composed in different periods, had been put together. And it is an abnormal collection, without the presence of an accompaniment. Indeed in Romantic times, some composers had tried writing accompaniments; useless because the plaiting of voices creates an harmonic dimension in a polyphonic implant. We do not know the reasons of Bach’s original experimentum – that this masterpiece surely is. Exegetes have questioned themselves about the destination of this collection – maybe asking Pisendel the expert known in Weimar. Probably the reasons depend on this certain modus operandi that brought Bach to invent alternative paths for his mastery in different skills, going much beyond his time’s beliefs, with systematic and practical spirit.

Articulated in three Sonatas and three Partitas, alternated following a sophisticated tonal scheme in Cartesian rigour, the admirable collection assumes the significance of a paradigmatic summa of techniques requiring a high level of virtuosity of the interpreter.

The Sonatas were conceived in conformity with the consolidated form of Church Sonata in Corelli style, in four movements. The beginning is always a slow movement of impressive solemnity; sometimes – as happens in BWV 1001 – marked by elements of improvisation, as in a Toccata for organ, in other cases – BWV 1003 – marked by the presence of rich figures. Remarkable, in second position, the presence of incisive Fugues of impressive dimensions. Follows a slow movement (in BWV 1001 it is a cordial Siciliana while in BWV 1003 there is an emotional and intimate Arioso), then arrives a robust page to end each Sonata in the name of fluency, remembrance of Italian style.

As for the Partitas we cannot miss the traits of originality, although in the regular alternation of the typical suite dances, of which the term Partita is synonym: there are robust Allemands, light Courents, meditative Sarabandas and brilliant Gigues with ongoing verve. But also austere Preludes, Minuets, a Gavotta, a Bourrée, Doubles with tasty variations, a Loure in Norman taste, while Tempo di Borea is the Italian version of Bourrée.

Furthermore the most visible anomaly is the vast Ciaccona that ends the Second Partita, made up of several variations of increasing difficulty, originated from a nucleus of four notes. There are various artifices, at the end of which we shall find the end of the impressive score, at the end of a kaleidoscopic gallery of technical expedients that, as Basso evidences, «make this masterpiece monumental, a sort of constitution of virtuoso violinists». Singular challenge for solo violin, experimentum of incomparable sagacity, true prospective of acoustic illusionism; this had never been conceived before.